Personalities

Find out what Asia’s movers and shakers are up to ­– and how they spend their private time 
  1. A penguin character that speaks with a husky male voice and seems unconcerned by South Korean social norms has become more popular than K-pop group BTS, according to a recent survey.Pengsoo, a 2.1 metre-tall penguin with an expressionless face and blank, staring eyes was named “Person of the Year” – despite not actually being a person. It beat popular stars like BTS in a poll of 2,333 adults conducted by Korean recruitment website Incruit at the end of November.Pengsoo, which emerged just years…
  2. South Korea is considering a ban on celebrity endorsements of alcoholic drinks, in a bid to end the glamorisation of drinking culture and cut rates of consumption among young people.The proposed move is being spearheaded by the country’s Ministry of Health and Welfare, which wants to see famous faces banished from drinks packaging and removed from accompanying advertising by as early as next year.No more soju calendars with nearly nude women in South KoreaKim Euk, an administrator of mental…
  3. Memoirs of a Flying Tiger: The Story of a WWII Veteran and SIA Pioneer Pilot was published last month by war veteran Ho Weng Toh, and co-written by National University of Singapore academic Jonathan Sim. It recounts Ho’s colourful life and storied career, starting with his studies at the University of Hong Kong, becoming a Chinese air force B-25 bomber pilot during World War II, and eventually ending up in Singapore where he rose to become chief pilot at Singapore Airlines.Here are excerpts of…
  4. It has been almost eight decades since Hong Kong fell into the hands of Japanese forces during World War II, but war veteran Ho Weng Toh can still remember the fear that plagued the city.One particular memory that stands out for the 99-year-old was seeing Kai Tak Airport – Hong Kong’s international gateway from 1925 to 1998 – go up in flames in front of him.“From the balcony, I had a clear view of the Kai Tak Airport … The airport had always been a pleasant sight for me. That day, it was not,”…
  5. Nguyen, who was born in a rural, mountainous area in the North of Vietnam, could barely string together complex sentences when his life took a sudden turn.He was only about four years old when his father fell sick and the family had to borrow money to cover the hospital expenses – but they could not avoid his death.“I remember my mum and I working for some people to pay off the debt. One day, we were taken on a motorbike to a very faraway place,” he recalls. “It was in a very remote mountainous…
  6. Van left his home in Quang Binh, a province in central Vietnam, about a year ago – with one dream: building a better life in Britain.“I quit school in the 7th grade. I was an average student and used to farm with my parents,” recalls Van, who has three younger siblings.“I was going to do vocational training in 2017, but decided to save money to go overseas instead, thinking I could earn more money in the UK.”To make the journey possible, his parents borrowed about US$10,000 from a bank. Little…
  7. When Gilbert Mvondo was hired to cut roads through pristine Cameroonian rainforest in 2015, he did so expecting to be paid.He had been recruited, along with a number of other residents of Meyomessala – birthplace of Cameroon’s President Paul Biya – to prepare the ground for representatives of the prime minister’s office and the Trade Park Corporation, a little-known but well-connected firm with a registered address in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district.The Hong Kong company had promised to create…
  8. Would-be defector Wang Liqiang seemed to confirm Australia’s worst fears of Chinese infiltration. The fresh-faced, bespectacled 27-year-old, dubbed the “first Chinese operative to ever blow his cover”, recounted alarming tales of espionage and political sabotage in Australia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Wang recalled meeting with the head of a spy ring operating freely down under, coordinating a “cyber army” to manipulate public opinion during elections in Taiwan, working with a front company…
  9. More people speak Javanese than Malay, Burmese or Thai. Indeed, of Indonesia’s 265 million people, some 95 million speak Javanese. However, it is not the national language of the republic. That is Bahasa Indonesia, a variation of Malay. The two are very different and should never be confused.Moreover, Javanese is very much alive, both in popular culture and politics. For example, one of Indonesia’s most famous pop stars Via Vallen, has attracted more than 186 million YouTube views for her song…
  10. The deaths of K-pop stars Goo Hara and Sulli within six weeks of each other, as well as that of Jonghyun in December 2017, sent a shock wave of grief through their millions of fans in South Korea and around the world.Goo, a close friend of Sulli, was found dead in her flat on November 24, while Sulli and Jonghyun both took their own lives.Fans mourning their passing responded publicly and privately, with some flocking to Goo’s funeral home.Others are petitioning Twitter to make an exception to…